Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Thirst of God

Readings for Sunday, March 11 (Cycle A for Scrutinies):
Exodus 17:3-7
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42

“Give me a drink.”

This simple phrase spoken to the Samaritan woman seems to be a simple request from the Lord for a drink of water. At the noon hour, surely the Lord was hot and thirsty from traveling. But there is much more to those four simple words. As He says to her, “Give me a drink,” He is really beginning to show her - and all of us - the desire that God has for us to be in union with Him.

In the Old Testament, nearly every instance of a man and woman coming together at a well resulted in a marital union, so for this scene to take place at a well is meant to evoke in the mind of the reader a marital context – the union of a husband and wife being analogous to the union of the soul with God. This meeting at the well, as the Catechism so beautifully puts it, “is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him” (CCC, 2560). This image of thirsting is intentional. Every one of us knows what it means to be thirsty and every one of us knows the feeling of having our thirst quenched by a good cold drink. To have experienced thirst is universal, a sign that every person is able to understand the longing that God has for us personally. To quote Fr. Joseph Langford, MC:

As a burning desert yearns for water, so God yearns for our love. As a thirsty man longs for water, so God longs for each of us. As a thirsty man seeks after water, so God seeks after us. As a thirsty man thinks only of water, So God thinks constantly of us: “Even the hairs of head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). As a thirsty man will give anything in exchange for water, so God gladly gives all he has, and all he is, in exchange for us: his divinity for our humanity, his holiness for our sins, his paradise in exchange for our pain (Mother Theresa’s Secret Fire, 77).

“God proves his love for us,” says St. Paul, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins” (Romans 5:8).   Not after we had repented, not after we had straightened out our lives and gotten on the right track, but while we were still sinning. This is the love He has for us. This is the longing that He has for us.

And just as God longs for our hearts to turn to Him, so too do our hearts long to be with Him. As the Lord speaks to the woman about the living water, the Holy Spirit, you can feel the longing that she has to receive that gift. She cries out, “Sir, give me this water!” In the same way, our hearts also are crying out to receive God, but the thing is that we often fail to realize it as such. We feel a longing for something and, in our sinfulness, try to fill is with so many things around us. Like the Israelites who thirsted for water, we can often try to fill up the longing of our hearts with things that are good. We try to find fulfillment in the latest and greatest technology, sports or hobbies, the accumulation of money or possessions, and the company of good friends and family. These things, while not bad in themselves, never bring us true fulfillment. Like the woman at the well, who lived a life of sin, we also sometimes turn to those things that are not good for us, yet we still hope will bringing fulfillment – abuse of alcohol or drugs, viewing pornography and self-abuse, and promiscuity, to name a few. These things too fail to fulfill the thirst of our hearts. The only thing that fulfills us, the only thing that will bring us peace is to know the God who is Love.

And so we gather here once more at this altar of sacrifice, the place where God’s love is made manifest once more and He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist – the ultimate sign of His love – and we hear Him speaking to us today: “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longings to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. [Harden not your hearts. Rather,] Open to me, for I thirst for you” (Secret Fire, 136).